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author:  Margie Culbertson

The Good News Gazette

Reported Polio Cases in South Asia Drop by Nearly 50 Percent

By Vukoni Lupa–Lasaga,
Rotary International News


Reported Polio Cases in South Asia Drop by Nearly 50 Percent

by Vukoni Lupa–Lasaga,
Rotary International News

Health officials from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, the only polio–endemic countries in South Asia, announced in Geneva on 4 February that they are on track to stop transmission of the disease by the end of the year.
In 2004, polio cases in the three countries were slashed by 45 percent, according to a global polio eradication partners' press release that featured the announcement. Similar momentum this year should put an end to the transmission of polio in the densely populated region, which has proven a challenge to worldwide eradication efforts.
Meeting at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, health ministers from the three countries and senior WHO officials hammered out an endgame plan involving several massive polio immunization campaigns this year in the few remaining polio–affected areas. The emphasis will be on reaching children in communities traditionally undeserved by health services.
Last year, similar action paid off in the shrinking geographic footprint of the poliovirus and in falling numbers of affected children. According to a 1 February WHO report, total cases of polio in the region have fallen from 336 in 2003 to 186 in 2004 — 132 in India, 50 in Pakistan, and 4 in Afghanistan — which is the result of a greatly improved surveillance system. Vast areas of each country reported no polio last year. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Indian Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf all lent their personal support to the 2004 immunization campaigns, during which 210 million children were given 1.5 billion doses of vaccine.
"The poliovirus is currently cornered in only 6 of the 51 states and provinces within the three countries," says RI's International PolioPlus Committee Chair Bill Sergeant. "This is the year to rid Asia of polio."
Administrative officials from all sectors of government are being pressed into duty. In key areas, teachers, district administrators, railway workers, and other government employees are mobilizing for vaccination campaigns. Officials also acknowledged the complementary need for increased routine immunization of children to prevent the virus from coming back.Up to 21 additional immunization campaigns across the region in 2005 will involve millions of volunteers, including Rotarians, who will fan out house–to–house from remote villages to the vast metropolitan slums to reach all children under age five.

African Health Ministers Announce 2005 Polio Strategy at Geneva Meeting

By Vukoni Lupa–Lasaga,
Rotary International News


14 January – Health ministers from the African countries most affected by polio have established an eradication strategy for 2005, according to a joint press release from Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners Rotary International, UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.
Meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva on 13 January, the ministers agreed to embark on a series of massive immunization campaigns across 25 countries as a key aspect of the strategy. Polio surveillance will also be stepped up. "We, the ministers of the eight most–polio–affected countries of Africa, together with the global polio partners, commit to further intensifying polio eradication activities with the goal of ending transmission by the end of 2005," they announced at the end of the conference.
According to the press release, the ministers pledged to conduct at least five rounds of national immunization campaigns and involve all sectors of their governments in a bid to reach every child with the polio vaccine.
The polio–endemic countries of Egypt, Niger, and Nigeria, as well as Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, and Sudan, which are experiencing a circulation of the poliovirus originating from a 2003 outbreak in Nigeria, were represented at the event. (…)

© 2005 Rotary International
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